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Standard and alternative methods of stretcher carriage: performance, human factors, and cardiorespiratory responses

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Transporting a casualty on a stretcher is a common task for medical and military personnel. Stretchers are usually carried by hand, but distributing the load to other parts of the body may have advantages. To examine alternative carriage methods, 11 soldiers walked on a treadmill at 4.8 km/h while performing two person carries of a stretcher containing an 80-kg manikin. In separate trials, soldiers carried the stretcher using: (1) hand carriage, (2) shoulder straps, (3) a specially designed harness that allowed load shifting between the hips and shoulders (hip-shoulder system), and (4) a clip that fitted on the belt of standard military load carrying equipment (LCE) and placed the stretcher mass mainly on the hips. With each system, subjects walked until volitional fatigue or 30 min. While walking, expired gases and heart rates were obtained and subjects rated their perceived exertion (Borg Scale). At the conclusion of all four trials, subjects rated each system on a number of subjective measures. Results showed that average (+/-SD) carriage times were 2.7+/-1.4, 14.5+/-8.3, 25.4+/-8.1, and 21.7+/-9.9 min with the hand, shoulder, hip-shoulder and LCE systems respectively (p<0.01). Hand carriage resulted in considerably more cardiorespiratory stress (higher heart rate and minute ventilation, p<0.05) than the other three systems, but there were few consistent differences among the other three systems. Perceived exertion in the upper body was less with the hip-shoulder and LCE systems than with the other two systems (p<0.05). Subjects preferred the hip-shoulder and LCE systems overall and for specific subjective characteristics such as comfort, ease of use and stability (p<0.01). These data indicate that moving the stretcher load from the hands and placing that load on the shoulders and/or hips results in improved performance, reduced cardiorespiratory stress and favourable subjective evaluations. Further developmental work should focus on the hipshoulder and LCE systems.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2000-05-01

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